Freelancers...first steps?

Discussion in 'Digital Video' started by MovieCutter, Apr 25, 2011.

  1. MovieCutter macrumors 68040

    MovieCutter

    Joined:
    May 3, 2005
    Location:
    Washington, DC
    #1
    Hey gang,

    Being forced out of my staff job at Al Jazeera and going freelance as a producer/editor/shooter...or preditor. I'm 26 years old and have never gone on my own in this regard. What should be my first steps to starting off on the right foot. LLC vs. being incorporated, health insurance, tax situations? Anyone got any good links or advice to get me going? Thanks.
     
  2. dblessin macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2007
    #2
    I would first find out if there is anyone out there willing to buy your work on a regular basis. Then gage how much they can pay on an ongoing monthly basis and find out that way if it's a viable situation for you. It could make your money situation difficult without having a regular customer...

    Worry about the rest of the stuff after...
     
  3. chrismacguy macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2009
    Location:
    United Kingdom
    #3
    Yeah, definitely you need to get the networking side down before even getting near incorporation - I would be tempted to talk to an accountant however to check what this will mean for your tax situation (If your in the US you never know how the tax code will impact you...)
     
  4. MovieCutter thread starter macrumors 68040

    MovieCutter

    Joined:
    May 3, 2005
    Location:
    Washington, DC
    #4
    I still have a weekly interview show I've been doing on the side with my boss who is also leaving the network. AJE buys the shows and will continue doing so until August, and he has other networks around the world interested in purchasing them as well so that work will continue and it is almost as much as my former staff salary was, so that's my rent/bills/entertainment money while my severance check is going into a Roth IRA or some other investment or savings account. I'll be meeting with clients over the next weeks to build that network, I already have a pretty good start on that.

    Mainly looking for procedural stuff and advice.
     
  5. chrismacguy macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2009
    Location:
    United Kingdom
    #5
    Well Id go like this: (this is what Im doing right now to fund myself through my degree):

    1) Find a really good accountant to sort out taxes
    2) Find a good lawyer to help you work out which type of incorporation if any will work best for you, and get the paperwork filed (It might cost a bomb, but it will save one heck'va lot of headaches later, over guessing your way through yourself)
    3) Start doing what you love, making sure to send copies of each invoice to your accountant, Id also create standard invoice templates etc at this stage just because their useful if you ever end up needing to hire someone else, even temporarily etc etc.
     
  6. MovieCutter thread starter macrumors 68040

    MovieCutter

    Joined:
    May 3, 2005
    Location:
    Washington, DC
    #6
    Thanks, #1 and #2 are already done, mostly. I've had a great accountant since college and he's saved me a ton every year in taxes. Going to consult a family lawyer to move forward, #3 is definitely coming...going with Freshbooks for invoicing. I've just had a chat with my boss every month to remind him about paying me and he gets on it in a day or two after our convo...so I'm set on THAT particular client, but if I start working for Discovery or Nat Geo, then it's a different story.
     
  7. gameface, Apr 25, 2011
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2011

    gameface macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2010
    Location:
    Boston, MA
    #7
    Save your dough... as much as you possibly can. It took me 2 years of constant worries until I was comfortable enough with my list of clients where cash influx wasn't even a worry.

    Invoice immediately and keep good books. There are quite a few agencies I have worked for around here that will easily go 90 days out on an invoice even with calls to HR. Last summer at one point I was waiting on $23K in invoices between 2 different agencies and a production company, and I'm a one man show. So save your money and learn to absorb those times.

    Don't short yourself on rate either because "you're just getting started". Know exactly what freelancers in your field (and area!) are making and stay competitive. If you start going down too low, even though you can save the client some bucks, they start wondering why you don't charge as much as others and think you might be a hack. So in a sense, trying to get the job by reducing your rate may hurt you.

    Remember, your time is now billable. If you have to render, you're getting paid. If you have to transcode, you are getting paid. Just because you aren't "working" it is time that your system is being occupied and your time is being held up. Don't do stuff for free. I'm not saying if you have a big comp and you render overnight to charge them for it but if someone delivers a drive with P2 or something, you have to log/transfer it before you get started, those few hours are billable. If it's stopping you from working on other things, it is billed.

    If you are doing day rate, don't ever except anything under half-day rate. If you work for 2 hours, half-day rate. If you work 5 or more, full day.

    Have fun... being solo is the best thing I have ever done for my editing career. Much more freedom, more variety in my projects and a lot more money.

    PS... welcome to the wonderful world of tax deductions now. You can deduct pretty much everything now. :D
     
  8. MovieCutter thread starter macrumors 68040

    MovieCutter

    Joined:
    May 3, 2005
    Location:
    Washington, DC
    #8
    Pretty much what I wanted to hear. Thanks! Looking forward to it, I'm so sick of day-to-day sitting around the edit bay waiting for producers to tell me what they want...and it's literally soundless cover footage for the show. Ugh.
     
  9. Soura2112 macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jun 26, 2008
    #9
    Similar situation

    I'm kinda in a similar situation, so didn't want to start a new thread, though my questions are different.
    I do a lot of networking, of all places the dog park I go to where people ask me to transfer work, editing and videography (go ahead and steal my network area, just not at my park lol, you meet retired people to business people, huge variety, also not my only client base just newest) So far everything has worked out well, and it's really helped get my name out in the area.
    I do not have an LLC yet, thankfully I have a very successful brother who can take care of my LLC stuff, except he's not in the video business, which is why I really need to know some liability issues before I take the jump to bigger projects. Also in my mind at least if I see "LLC" on my business and website it just sounds better to new clients.

    So my main question is liability. Of course I'm careful and knock on wood nothing bad has happened, such as a broken tape, computer failure, or anything bad you can imagine that could not technically be my fault. I hear from people who hire wedding videographers that they are unhappy with wedding videos (have yet to do one), and how that can be a nightmare (just an example). How do you guys get around the liability? At the moment this is my side business while I look for full time work, though one day I hope to turn this into my full-time business since I love it, except I'm starting from the ground up, and need a salary job, not easy at the moment like we all know, and time is going by fast! So "real job" first (plus with how much my parents paid for my college years I'm pushed into the "real job" until I can show them I can make real money doing video work, and photo, left out photo since video is my real passion).

    Again I have my brother to help out the technical business side, just need to know the legal issues I may have to deal with. Is there a website that can help me out?
    Thanks for any info.
     
  10. gameface, Apr 26, 2011
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2011

    gameface macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2010
    Location:
    Boston, MA
    #10
    I think your concern is because you will be dealing with amateurs.

    Example, we had a DIT on a crew a few weeks ago that copied the same card twice and formatted both cards. This guy has NOTHING to do on set but basically media manage. His one job he had he ****ed up and if he was paying even the slightest attention he would have noticed the same shot number sequence for 2 different cameras. No one knew until they brought me the footage to start cutting and I found one whole act from a 3 camera shoot was gone. Card was formatted and shot over so it couldn't be recovered. He tried blaming it on the camera operators but we know it is ********. It cost production money to reshoot but did he get sued? No. Will he get hired by that producer again? No.

    A client I had, dumped a firewire drive off a desk while it was reading/writing and killed it. Sent it to drivesavers and $5000 later we had 95% of the footage back (but my heavy After Effects project was gone) but some had to be re shot. Accidents happen and if you do everything in your power to mitigate the possibility of something going wrong you are pretty much in the clear. (BACK THAT SHIZZ UP!)

    I have never had a new tape snap and you should only be shooting on new tapes (you still using tape?). Every single piece of electronic data needs to be on secure storage system and you need at least 2 copies. That way if a drive craps out, you have a backup, preferably not in the same place the bad one did. If you will be doing stuff from home, get renters insurance, it is a must if you are running even a side business out of it because you can cover accidents financially even if they are a pain to fix logistically.

    My suggestion, forget about the liability and get to work. After years in this industry in different parts of the country I have never seen a production member or post-production member sued for something that happened on the job.

    Moral of the story... don't do work for random strangers who don't have the understanding of this business. Revision counts start getting up there and they are never happy. Tell them what you can deliver for the money. If they have a $2000 budget, they get $2000 worth of work (3-4 days total). I can make anything better with more time and money. just because I make something that isn't awesome doesn't mean I can't, it's because it wasn't in the budget. Working for any people that don't understand this is just going to be a gigantic headache all the way around.

    good luck.
     
  11. MovieCutter thread starter macrumors 68040

    MovieCutter

    Joined:
    May 3, 2005
    Location:
    Washington, DC
    #11
    This. I did that kind of work for those kind of people through high school and college. They definitely aren't my current clientele and I really don't want to resort to wedding videographer all over again (though I made serious bank doing it in college). But I definitely echo the storage/backup statement. I have 150 half hour (25 minute) interview shows that have aired on Al Jazeera English on a Drobo and DroboS in my office, and a third 8TB array stored off site and backed up weekly. Every source file since we shoot on flash storage. Every script, transcript, voice over, render file, etc. I have THREE backups, and four of shows from the same month. I can't stress redundant storage enough. I've even talked to my client about buying 120GB laptop or desktop drives at $40-60 bucks a pop and storing one show per drive, putting them in a plastic "tape-style" case and putting them on a shelf just in case. If you ever listen to the podcasts Alex Lindsay does...this is one of his biggest things...redundancy, redundancy, redundancy....oh, and redundancy.

    Oh, and screw that "media management" guy. He's frakked. What I tell my students when I teach FCP classes/instruction...media management is half of digital editing. If you don't have you media organized, backed up, verified, etc...you're frakked.
     
  12. Soura2112 macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jun 26, 2008
    #12
    Thanks

    Thanks for the info.

    I do back everything up so that's not a real concern. My main concern is transferring VHS to MiniDv tapes for clients. It's easy money. I run into lots of older people who don't want to learn this stuff, so it's there tapes I'm worried about. My house has great home owners and that's where my little office is located.
    If I shot anything with a tape it's always brand new, even my fun videos have always been new tapes.
    So my main worry is not knowing how people take care of their old VHS tapes. Again knock on wood no problems.

    Thanks for your help.
     
  13. gameface, Apr 26, 2011
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2011

    gameface macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2010
    Location:
    Boston, MA
    #13
    Like MovieCutter says it's great money while in school but it's not what a professional does. If someone has a VHS that they want transferred, here is what I tell them:

    "You're going to lose quality in the transfer. I will give you an autoplay DVD without a menu and a DVD with the full res (SD) Quicktime on it for $1000". 95% of the time they will walk away, which is a GOOD THING, imho.

    On an aside that will maybe think differently... I cut 8 music video clips for this entertainment company who does corporate events and weddings. They had a 2 day, full union shoot. 2 Cameras, lights, the whole nine. I would guess it cost them roughly $80K said and done. This d1ckhole wants 4 rounds of revisions on a total 12 minute piece. Then I deliver FLVs for his site and he bitches that the RED colors aren't as true in firefox on a laptop as they were viewing from my broadcast monitors. Then he wat me to recolor correct for online video and for DVD out of budget. Sure, the money sounds nice but when clients call you a week after delivery and want you to make stupid changes it sucks. Working with idiots that have money but no idea are the absolute worst people to deal with. Stay away from that side of the industry at all costs.

    PS... I gave them the raw per producers instructions and they posted a youtube video recut with my name on it that was no where near my edit. For serious, there is a reason why it is "easy money".

    That's my $.02 anyway. Since being freelance from 2007 on I have learned some shizz and that is "the 'easier' the money, the more goddamn hassle the project will be".
     
  14. MovieCutter thread starter macrumors 68040

    MovieCutter

    Joined:
    May 3, 2005
    Location:
    Washington, DC
    #14
    Exactly. For me early on, the greatest word I learned to say was "No." Made my life SO much easier not to be bogged down by mundane projects with "clients" who expect the world but can't afford 3 hours of your time.
     
  15. puckhead193 macrumors G3

    puckhead193

    Joined:
    May 25, 2004
    Location:
    NY
    #15
    Have everything in writing to make sure to cover your butt.
     
  16. Soura2112 macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jun 26, 2008
    #16
    Net

    Are there any pre written forms on the net? Years ago I saw some just want to make sure I find the correct forms.
    Thanks.
     
  17. CaptainChunk macrumors 68020

    CaptainChunk

    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2008
    Location:
    Phoenix, AZ
    #17
    This is very sound advice to anyone looking to become a freelancer. Over the years, I've grown pretty savvy in doing "damage assessments" with potential clients. Set your rates to be competitive in your market, but ABSOLUTELY DO NOT lowball yourself for anyone. It only hurts you and your industry peers in the end...

    1. If someone can't afford you, they can't afford you. Walk away. These clients are almost ALWAYS the most difficult ones to deal with because they want the world for nothing and are never happy.

    2. ALWAYS be very clear with clients as to what level of work they should expect for their budget. Make them fully aware that last-minute additions and revisions after final delivery count as billed time before you event think about doing business with them. If the client walks away, you probably don't want to deal with him or her anyway.

    3. If you haven't already - network, network, network! Find quality clients that are either in the business or have a solid understanding of how it works. These clients are more likely to value your time appropriately and you're far more likely to get paid what you're worth.

    4. I think this was mentioned before, but I'll reiterate. Corporate clients often pay their freelancers on Net-30, Net-60, Net-90, etc. terms. Very rarely will they hand you check right away after delivery. Be aware of this and budget your expenses accordingly.
     
  18. EDITMAN2411, May 4, 2011
    Last edited: May 4, 2011

    EDITMAN2411 macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2011
    #18
    PERFECT post. Exactly my experience (minus ever waiting on 23K heh).

    It can't be stressed enough - get value for your time! Don't give it away.

    Good luck to the OP.
     
  19. EDITMAN2411, May 4, 2011
    Last edited: May 4, 2011

    EDITMAN2411 macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2011
    #19

    I love reading things like this. Lot of great advice in this thread.

    Makes me feel less alone...and less "bad" about the client Im about to turn away because she keeps trying to itemize (and eliminate) everything on my damn estimates.
     
  20. gameface macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2010
    Location:
    Boston, MA
    #20
    You're definitely not alone. ;)

    What you are is a professional. Ones who don't get these facts... aren't yet. :D
     
  21. MovieCutter thread starter macrumors 68040

    MovieCutter

    Joined:
    May 3, 2005
    Location:
    Washington, DC
    #21
    Yeah, definitely a lot of good advice here. That being said, I got a call for a random job interview tomorrow for a creative team company that farms out it's artists to clients. Not sure what to expect, but I'm under no pressure being ONE WEEK into a four month severance and having a paying weekly client on top of it all...we'll see what happens, but it'll be the most relaxed job interview I'll ever do methinks.
     
  22. Soura2112 macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jun 26, 2008
    #22
    How did it go?

    Sounds like a great way to go into an interview, since im sure I'm not alone when it comes to disliking any job interview. Even the few interviews I have had (non video related) that I was a shoe in due to help from my family I even hated those, granted more relaxing then a normal interview.
    So I was just curious how your interview went?
     
  23. CaptainChunk macrumors 68020

    CaptainChunk

    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2008
    Location:
    Phoenix, AZ
    #23
    4 months of severance AND a consistent client? Wow, that must be nice. ;)
     

Share This Page